Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Security Council and the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have condemned today's outbreak of fighting in the centre of the capital, Kinshasa, between Government forces and the guards of former Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba.
Calling for an immediate halt to the armed clashes, Mr. Ban warned that they posed grave consequences for the country's chances of obtaining a durable peace after the civil war and threatened the live of innocent civilians in Kinshasa.
"The UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC) stands ready to assist the Government in bringing about an end to the current fighting, to re-establish security in the area, and to work with the Congolese Government in addressing the underlying issue of appropriate security for Mr. Bemba," according to a statement issued by Mr. Ban's spokesperson.
MONUC issued its own statement demanding a return to calm and urging the Government and Mr. Bemba to resolve any differences peacefully. The head of the mission, William Lacy Swing, who is also the Secretary-General's Special Representative to the DRC, has contacted the two sides to try to find a solution to the crisis.
Mr. Bemba was defeated last October by Joseph Kabila in the run-off round of landmark presidential elections in the DRC, the first such polls in more than four decades.
MONUC added that it has already deployed extra military resources to Kinshasa and is ready to take the necessary steps to protect civilians in the event of further violence.
Ambassador Dumisani S. Kumalo of South Africa, which holds the rotating Security Council presidency this month, read out a press statement in which the 15-member panel deplored the violence and called for an immediate ceasefire from both sides.
"The members of the Security Council are particularly concerned about the spill-over of the violence on the civilian population, including children," Mr. Kumalo said.
The DRC is still trying to recover from the effects of a six-year civil war, widely considered the most lethal conflict in the world since World War II, which cost 4 million lives.